Monday, November 19, 2007

Vampire Weekend

What is with the overwhelmingly humble way we rep bands to our friends and lovers. Shyly, almost apologetic, "You know they're alright. Nothing mind blowing, but they'll put you in a good mood." So afraid of throwing a referral on the line, afraid to be thought a fool, if the recepient comes back at us with a "thanks, but no thanks." Your cred is hurt, man. Just think , anytime from here on out, every recommendation will be viewed with a grain of salt.

Well who the fuck are you and who the fuck am I?

Why the need to quantify such a simple endeavour. Here you are dear friend, I thought you might like these guys. Simple right? Lets not make it rocket science. Love the one you're with. Embrace that motherfucker and tell the world.

I was leafing through Spin the other week and they had one of those Band to Watch profiles with Vampire Weekend. The skinny on VW is that they are a bunch of preps who met while attending Columbia University. The article is apologizing right from word one. They look like the guys you were supposed to want to beat up in high school. Essentially, they don't fit the mold of the indie rock and roll world(which is shitfuls of stupid anyways). Heaven forbid. But wait, dear reader, they write music (shock), and it's good (double shock). But how do I reconcile their image with the affinity I have for their songs? I mean, I like them, but I feel so guilty.

Luckily, I have long ago unsaddled my soul from such a dilemna. I'm telling you all that I got my hands on the first Vampire Weekend EP and I like it. It probably came at the right time. I'm just coming off an intense relationship with my first exposure to Paul Simon's Graceland. That album probably has to have the greatest influence on bringing in African music to America. Aside from Africans that is. But just in the popular realm, that album is the impetus, right?
Vampire weekend have that element. They claim to be specialists in Upper West Side Soweto, which serves to confirm. I am intensely enjoying the EP. Their full length comes out late January in the new year. I am anxious to hear it.

They'll be at the El Mocambo on December 13th for those near Toronto. Guess what? I'm excited to be there too.

I'll leave you with my favourite track, Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa. Their feature full length comes out in late January.

Vampire Weekend - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa (sendspace file. Click link)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A reader asked that I re-up the Robert Sean Leonard version of Softly and Tenderly (Jesus is calling). The track comes from the Chelsea Walls soundtrack, scored by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.

It started out a play and was later adapted for the screen by Nicole Burdette. As the title may suggest, the film surrounds around new York's famed Chelsea Hotel. Directed by Ethan Hawke and starring among others Uma Thurman, Kris Kristofferson, as well as the afore-mentiond RSL, his old chum going back to those "Oh Captain, My Captain" days.

Leonard, currently available on primetime every week playing foil to Hugh Laurie on tv's House, contributes two tracks to the soundtrack. Softly and Tenderly and a cover of Wilco's The Lonely 1 (from Being There).

I'm going to include both here today. There are some cool touches on The Lonely 1, which otherwise is a pretty non-descript and faithful, if not stripped down, cover. Note the fat water drops in the background as if played under the cover of a leaky roof and . Softly and Tenderly is a beautiful take on a spiritual standard. Rather stunning actually.

Robert Sean Leonard - Softly and Tenderly
(Jesus Is Calling) mp3 (sendspace link)
Robert Sean Leonard - The Lonely 1 mp3 (sendspace link)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New signings to Arts & Crafts

Hey kids, back in black.

Toronto-based label. etc. Arts & Crafts announced yesterday that they have added Montreal band The Stills to their roster. The band is about to head into the studio to begin work on their third album.

Once upon a time I was a fan of The Stills. Not so much anymore. To celebrate the signing the band will be playing a two night stint at Lee's palace November 23rd and 24th.

But the bigger news (though still no official word) is that The Constantines will also be putting out their new album on A+C. Bry Webb announce the news during their set Sunday at The Virgin Festival on Toronto Island. Even though I missed their set due to my personal refusal to ever be on time (also KC's undying quest to spend 2/3's of her life getting pretty in the powder room) I can't tell you how excited I am about this news.

A+C is having a great year behind Feist, the new Kevin Drew, and Stars. I am very excited about the push the label could give the band. A lot of questions should be answered in the (near?) future. Most importantly, When is this album coming out? And will the Cons still remain with Sub Pop in the States?

Details forthcoming as they break. I'm very tingly with anticipation.

So in celebration of this here is a cover the Constantines did back in '04 of Nina Simone's Sea Line Woman. It acted as a b-side to the Young Lions Ep, put out by Sub Pop soon after they signed.

The Constantines - Sea Line Woman mp3 (Sendspace file)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A-side/B-side week continues

If I wasn't afraid of Frank's corpse ordering a hit on me I might have started this post with a comment on Nancy Sinatra's continuing sex appeal. Jessica Simpson doesn't even compare to Nance in her prime. Not even close.

While These Boots Were Made For Walking is undoubtedly her biggest hit, ask any of the indie kids and they'll rave to you about Some Velvet Morning. Both Boots and Some Velvet Morning were written by Lee Hazelwood, the ex disc jock turned songwriter, who would deliver Nancy the breakthrough she always desired. On Morning they teamed up, trading verses over an ethereal sound that was a departure from their traditional, though something Hazlewood would expand on in his solo albums.

The single would reach as high as #26 on the Billboard 100 charts in February 1968.

The b-side to the single was Oh Lonesome Me. Another duet for the pair, it's a charming country ditty sung from the perspective of two lovers, freshly broken up from each other, sitting in on a Friday night bemoaning their heartache and wishing they could be out tearing it up and finding someone new like they presume their ex to be doing. Like I said, it's a charmer.

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood - Oh Lonesome Me mp3 (sendspace file)
Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood - Some Velvet Morning mp3

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The National

Continuing A-side/B-side week....

The National appeared on many people's radars after 2005's Alligator. Their new puppy, The Boxer comes out next Tuesday on Beggars Banquet. I'm a relatively new fan of the band, only really getting into them the past two months.

First single Mistaken for Strangers pleases my ears. I'm becoming a big fan of Matt Berninger's lyrics. Quite rich and introspective.

B-side Blank Slate is a re-working of Alligator b-side Keep It Upstairs, which figures prominently in the chorus.

If you pre-order the album from Insound you should receive the 7-inch single. (while supplies last I imagine)

They are also streaming the whole album on their myspace. Go there for a preview. The band stops by the Opera House June 5th.

The National - Mistaken For Strangers
The National - Blank Slate mp3

Out today is Wilco's Sky Blue Sky. It's been getting fair reviews across the board, as well as one of the less than enthusiastic variety.

Wilco streamed the album a few times a couple months back before streaming the whole thing on demand for the last few weeks. On the eve of its release they offered this missive, imploring the fans to recognize the generosity of the act and buy the album despite it's status as easily attainable for free by now. I chose not to listen to the album prior to the release and would have bought the album regardless (no judgement on those who did, that's just how I roll these days) . This is the most intelligent response to early album leaking I've seen yet. We'll see if the strategy works. I'm sure there will still be many who will choose to enjoy their free copies, myself, If I could I would but I think I'd miss that little kick in my step as I walk to the record store on Tuesday. Not a lot of things in this world can beat it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Hey you're back

It has been roughly three weeks since I posted last. I traded roommate Luke for roommate Hawker family. That's right, this dear soldier traded in Collegetown, USA (Canada really) for the balmy locale of Barrie, Ontario AKA "The Gateway to the North."

The move home is meant as a temporary summer residence and I must say that despite the cramped quarters and hectic move it feels good to be home. I'm finally settled in (or close to) and finally felt the urge to post again after a relaxing weekend spent conspiring with old friends. Yesterday of course was Mother's Day , lest we forget. It also happened to be my sister Bethany's birthday. It was a special one for both in my eyes as it was the first time in memory that both days have fallen on the same. Seventeen years ago yesterday my sister Bethany was born on Mother's day. A special one then and now.

To get back into the blogger swing of things I'm thinking of doing an A-side/B-side week. I've been on a huge vinyl kick as of late and started picking up 45's and 7 inches. Speed City Records in London had a massive assortment of these and I spent a few afternoons in my last days in the city leafing through. My jaw dropped at some of the stuff I picked up. Some great Stones and Beatles finds that were a steal at 3/$1.00. It makes me miss London that much more when considering Barrie's criminal lack of decent record stores.

Moving on.... Today's featured artist is Arcade Fire. We all remember the hoopla leading up to Neon Bible's release. While it lacks the immediate jaw dropping appeal of Funeral, the album is no slouch either.

My favourite track as of late is Keep The Cars Running. I found myself at wit's end this week. With both my summer jobs falling through, facing a dwindling bank account and the stress of unpacking getting to me (among others) I found myself running to my car and hitting the gas and play at the same time. How literal of me.

The Keep the Car Running single was released last week stateside. Broken Window is the B-side. The Fire are in Toronto this Tuesday and Wednesday for a pair of highly anticipated and oh so Sold Out shows at Massey Hall. While I won't be in attendance unfortunately I have my memories of their epic concerts past to keep me warm at night. Enjoy!

Arcade Fire - Keep The Car Running
Arcade Fire - Broken Window mp3

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Joel Plaskett does the Ashtray Rock

Currently tearing up my music player of choice is Joel Plaskett's new disc Ashtray Rock. Released last week via Maple music, the new long-player finds Joel back again with The Emergency (Dave Marsh and Chris Pennell) after a short hiatus on 2005's La De Da.
And it is good to have the band back. While Joel is sill the principle songwriter if you look at Joel's post-Thrush Hermit work you'll find that his more boisterous and rocking side is linked intricately with the appearance of the Emergency band.

Such is the case of Ashtray Rock. The album, a rock musical of sorts, is a 13-song story about a young group of friends. Nameless and earnest in their teen-aged glory. Pretty Girl finds herself at the top of the love triangle between two members of the band. Though she doesn't seek it, their affections drive a rift between each other and eventually breaks up the band. She moves away and the boys are left miserable and alone.

Not many artists nearing in their late twenties could pull this one off convincingly. Joel's an obvious exception. From the early days when Joel, skinny and barely pubescent, started Thrush Hermit to now, Joel's boyish charm has always gone a long way to understating his actual age. In person he can give off a slight Eddie Haskel vibe which is appropriate considering his, at times, sugary brand of songwriting is the kind of anthemic stuff the kids really go for. This big kid too.

On first listen I was struck by how different the album initially sounded from previous Joel efforts. This probably has something to do with Gordie Johnson (ex-Big Sugar) enjoying producer credit. He also plays lap steel on the record, as well as adding some strings and synth. Not all change is good, but in this case it really works.

Drunk Teenagers is one of those glorious anthems that instantly grabs you. It's about, surprise, surprise, drunk teenagers, as fitting in with the story. Enjoy the shout-outs to Halifax and some of its less notable landmarks. It's bit tongue in cheek as well, if not a bit mischievous.

I heard Joel do Fashionable People back around Christmas time. I wasn't too impressed with the track. It was irritating then but now less than irritable on record. Much to my surprise I really enjoy it.

Joel is doing a cross Canada tour starting in May. Head to his website for all the dates and for a few more tracks from the album stream.

The Joel Plaskett Emergency - Drunk Teenagers mp3
The Joel Plaskett Emergency - Fashionable People mp3

Purchase the album

Friday, April 20, 2007

Jack White

The new White Stripes record is getting me all kinds of excited. The frequent posts would hint to that. Yesterday news leaked out that The Stripes will be playing a slot at the Ottawa Bluesfest in July. It has been a while since I visited my nation's capital, long overdue indeed, and surely this stands as a viable reason to both rock and tour the Parliament (good times I lie not).

As I've exhausted all five Stripes long-players this past month I've recently taken to other Jack White projects for these ears. The Raconteurs' Broken Boy Soldiers("but the porridge is just too cold, even if it has two songwriters"), The Hentchmen, The Go, and Goober and the Peas ("this porridge is alright but kinda bland"), and finally Loretta Lynn and T-Bone collabs ("this porridge is hot as shit and just the way I like it")

Much was made of Jackie White's part in re-invigorating Lady Lynn's career with Van Lear Rose. As producer, Jackie played Rick Rubin to the Coal Miner Daughter's Johnny Cash. Album standout had to be this duet between Loretta and Jack. As the story goes "If that ain't love than tell me what is"

A couple years prior Jack got his actor on with a small part in Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain Oscar bait. Jackie played a minstrel type and also added five tracks to the T Bone Burnett soundtrack. Sound of the Appalachians, streams and spring thaws.

The Doctor over at the 115th Dream did a nice job of compiling some White Stripes b-sides and odds and ends a while back. So if you're chomping at the bit for the new record and need something old yet new to satisfy the urge this would be the place to head. The boys over at Born By The River also compiled some of the same ilk. Ditto.

Loretta Lynn & Jack White - Portland, Oregon

Jack White - Christmas Time Will Soon Be Over mp3
Jack White- Wayfaring Stranger mp3
Jack White - Sittin' On Top Of The World mp3
Jack White - Never Far Away mp3

Purchase Van Lear Rose and the Cold Mountain soundtrack

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Orchestra For The Moon

I talked about Jenn Grant back in December and told you all I'd keep you updated about her first full length. Today, I follow through on that promise. Orchestra For The Moon is out May 15th in Canada and June 15th below the 49th for the 50 United. The release is the first out on Paris 1919 Records, a new label from Jason MacIsaac of the Heavy Blinkers. They'll also be re-issuing the first Blinks album Hooray For Everything, and presumably the band's new double LP Health.

I like the label already, if simply because it shares the name of one of my favourite books. A necessary read for everyone along the lines of the old chalkboard adage. The tracklisting for Orchestra For The Moon is:

1- Morning Break
2- Dreamer
3- Dancin' in the Wind
4- Unique New York
5- Make It Home Tonight
6- In A Brown House
7- Don't Worry Baby
8- Britt n' Kip
9- At The Finish Line
10-Sound of Success
11-Rainy Day
12-White Horses
13-Blue Skies

Jenn has the new track, Make It Home Tonight, streaming on her myspace. It certainly won't dampen your enthusiasm for the new album (mine either, I'm really enjoying it). Certainly pop by for a listen or two.

For those on the East coast, Jenn is doing a few record release shows at the end of April and early May. On a selfish note I hope she comes through Ontario promptly.

Jenn Grant - Dreamer (mp3)

Friday, April 13, 2007

friday musings and a picture in the rain of a smile on the cusp

I wanted to post about my favourite television show, Friday Night Lights, which wrapped up its season Wednesday Night. However, I had too many muddled thoughts to get out without a clear head to do so. We'll save that post for a later date.

Instead lets talk about my week. My friend Miranda is getting married at the end of the month. Early on she asked me to be the emcee and I was more than delighted and honoured to do so. Soon after she followed that up with a request for me to DJ the reception also. I was even more delighted and agreed, despite the fact I've never done so and am completely unfamiliar with the equipment I'll be running things off of. Since then I've been mentally cataloguing song after song and as the wedding nears trying to organize my music, come up with some playlists, and generally fretting that no one is going to like my music selections. It is a wedding after all and it gives me no great pleasure acknowledging that YMCA is probably a necessary evil and will delight the party infinitely more than any Deadly Snakes song I would want playing at my wedding. It's been a battle of toning down some of my tastes, knowing my audience, and finding appropriate music that I won't cringe at when playing. Luckily I've been on a big soul and R&B kick this past year so I've been going old school in preparation. Otis Redding can inspire even the toughest of dance holdouts to pick up a rhythm.

My musical week was concentrated on two artists: One a long-time favourite, the other a person whose work I was initially cold to but have warmed to considerably in the past year. Both were reflected in this week's posts. As mentioned Tuesday, the White Stripes have a new album in the can and will be sharing it in the near future (June 19th to be precise). This news inspired an epic Tuesday where I sat down and listened to their five albums end to end as i heartily made a dent in the beer fridge. By the last note of I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet) I was googling photo's of Jack White during his pervy mustache phase.
Wednesday was dedicated to all things Paul Westerberg as I ran through Let It Be atleast twice (and as I write as it stands) then chased this with a couple more Replacements album and the 1oooth or so playing of Waiting For Somebody in the past 72 hours.

And that leads us to a few tracks. Both happen to be album enders and I've always appreciated a good closer.

The Stripes' I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet) off Get Behind Me Satan and Answering Machine off The Replacement's Let It Be both deal with loneliness at their core and how distance plays a part in estranging people and fueling this loneliness. They are both beautiful in their own right (I'm Lonely's aching piano, Westerberg's ravaged vocals on Answering Machine), not as dour as my description would have you believe, and find both artists at songwriting peaks.

The White Stripes - I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)
The Replacements - Answering Machine mp3

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"A-ha-ha Come and take my hand"

I watched Cameron Crowe's Singles last night and forgot how much I loved the Paul Westerberg material on the soundtrack. Westerberg contributed the tracks Dyslexic Heart and Waiting For Somebody, the latter used prominently throughout the movie, including the opening sequence.

The two tracks are Paul's first official post-Replacements compositions. Un-officially The 'Mats last album, 1990's All Shook Down is pretty much all Westerberg and sessions players and seen as such by many.

Also released as a b-side to the World Class Fad single, Waiting For Somebody is a doozy by my books. So much to love here. It's a tale of longing for love and companionship with a tinge of sadness, as well as a positive confirmation that Paul (and us too!) are going to be okay. Who doesn't get all affected by those almost hymnal "A-ha-ha's."

The last two lines of the second verse really get me: "I know damn well i'm tired of all this crying/On my feet as far as I can tell." The sentiment of it and how it fits into the entire scope of the song just bowls me over.

Paul Westerberg - Dyslexic Heart
Paul Westerberg - Waiting For Somebody mp3

Man Without Ties - A Great Westerberg fansite (photo credit above Bob Hyland)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

White Stripes do the Icky Thump

The White Stripes have finally set a date for the release of their sixth studio album. Mark those calendars for June 19th. As reported by many, the new album is entitled Icky Thump and is promised to be a 48 minute long player heavier than ever. Heavy.

Tracklisting be:
1-Icky Thump
2-You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You're Told)
3-300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues
5-Bone Broke
6-Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn
7-St. Andrew (The Battle Is In The Air)
8-Little Cream Soda
9-Rag and Bone
10-I'm Slowly Turning Into You
11-A Martyr For My Love For You
12-Catch Hell Blues
13-Effect And Cause

Here is the Album's cover: Yikes and Egads. Discuss.

In other semi-breaking news Jack and Meg White are not brother and sister as purported, but simply a once married, now amicably divorced, largely succesful rock and roll band. Spread the word.

The Stripes have a series of festival shows in early June in Europe, with their live return to US soil occurring at Bonnaroo on June 17th. Athough dates have not been announced, the Stripes promise to visit "all 10 provinces and 3 territories of Canada, as well as the remaining 16 states of the United States the band have yet to play." Nunavut thanks you Meg and Jack.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Love that David Ruffin. Rocking the high top long before Kid (or was it Play) ushered in the House Party.

The Temptations 1968 record The Temptations Wish It Would Rain marked the end of the "Classic Five" Temptations era. In the ensuing year after its release, lead singer David Ruffin's increasingly star behaviour would cause the rest of the band to give him his walking papers. As the album's title suggests, there's a melancholy tinge to this album. No doubt this was inspired by Roger Penzabene, a Motown label writer who penned the first two singles from the album.

Roger Penzabene worked closely with Norman Whitfield who had taken over Temps production duties from Smokey Robinson. Penzabene tackled the lyrics with Whitfield composing. Around the time of this album Penzabene found out his wife was cheating on him. It threw him into a fit of depression that would ultimately cause him to take his own life New Year's eve 1967, just a week after the first single's release.

The last song he penned was second single and album lead off I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You). Pleading and begging, the first four lines get you real tight.

"Girl I can't believe my ears/Are you really telling me goodbye/See you're taking away/My reason for living."

In many ways it is a continuation of previous Whitfield composed Temptations hit Ain't Too Proud To Beg.

The real masterpiece of Penzabene's was first single and album namesake/centerpiece I Wish It Would Rain. In the song a reserved piano intro leads into Ruffin's pained soulful voice as he/Penzabene hurt for the girl now gone, calling out for mother nature to provide rain "Cause raindrops will hide my teardrops." We could focus on the melancholy here, but the sadness is so real I can't help but smile, the song so beautiful I get tears of joy.

Find this one at your record shop.

The Temptations - I Wish It Would Rain mp3
The Temptations - I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You) mp3

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Born Ruffians w/ We're Marching On, Rock Plaza Central, Oh! The Pretty Things

I Went down to Call The Office this Thursday past for one of the better potential shows in recent memory. By that I mean the bill included some bands catching their fair share of buzz around the music universe, although I wasn't intimately familiar with most of their material. Thus, the show had the potential to be quite excellent, at least based on other people's endorsements.

With the late addition of Rock Plaza Central to the show, tipping the bill to four bands, made for a long night of rocking and rolling. I got there early to catch Oh! The Pretty Things to see if the tail end of the set I caught last time they were in town was a fluke or a snapshot of the band. O!TPT lived up to my own expectations and rocked a surprisingly energized crowd, despite several technical difficulties. The band seemed to enjoy their time on stage as much as myself and promised to return promptly. More about them in the coming days.

Quick sidenote: Say what you will about all ages shows and audiences but for the past several shows down at CTO there has been a group of barely legal types who get right up their at the front and dance their little asses off. At first is was almost irritating as they seemed to be more concerned with their quirky moves and one-upping each other than the bands. After coming across them multiple times now, I have grown appreciative to their complete enthusiasm. They rock the front lines the way those front lines should be rocked. I enjoy their joy.

Next up was Rock Plaza Central. Since the release of last year's Are We Not Horses, the band have been steadily gaining momentum. Chalk it up to a few things: Lyricist and frontman Chris Eaton's caterwaul garners comparisons to Jeff Mangum and Will Oldham. In a world starved for new Neutral Milk Hotel don't underestimate the power of siding with the next best thing. Pitchfork's 8.4 scoring for the album certainly opened a few eyes, as does the album's incredibly unique concept.

Rock Plaza's set was intense and grandeur. They have the same slightly weird and out of place look as Arcade Fire, although if Arcade looks like your high school music geeks, Rock Plaza looks like the ones who volunteered their lunch hours at the library. Just goes to show that you don't have to spend any time on image if your music is beyond cool anyways. The band played a loose set that grew more and more intense as they progressed. Aided by mandolin, violin, and the accordion among others (Eaton: "I want to thank you guys. That is probably the first time in rock and roll history that a crowd has asked for more accordion"), the band brought to life a variety of tracks from their latest, with a track or two from their previous records adding posterity. Their performance had a Broken Social Scene quality to it. Huge sounds and songs that seem destined to implode at points but never quite did. The best set of the night.
Update: Pitchfork added some photos and words from Rock Plaza Central's gig a few nights later in Chicago. Check them out here.

Next up was We're Marching On. Unfortunately for the band their sound is a slice of that NME approved, Arctic Monkeys type, spastic ADD rock. I say unfortunately because I talked to the guys for the latter half of the Born Ruffians set and they are incredibly sweet . There was nothing breathtaking (or redeeming) about their music. But the world can always use nice people, so that's something positive.

Last up on this long night were the Born Ruffians. With opening slots for Hot Chip, Peter, Bjorn and John, as well as a gig at last year's Toronto leg of the V Festival, the Ruffians should have been the big draw. And while there was still a sizable crowd, their 1AM start time on a Thursday wasn't exactly helping the cause. The Ruffians share elements with We're Marching On (management too). Off kilter vocals, too many yelps crossed with pogo pop for those no longer taking their Ritalin. Considering I went in with almost no expectations I was surprised at how underwhelmed I was. You can't be a fan of everything I realize, but as The Dandy Warhols once said "It doesn't take a genius to figure out/ I'm not as bright as I think I am"

Rock Plaza central and Oh! The Pretty Things mp3's below. Rock Plaza's music can be purchased here. O!TPT just put out their first EP. Get in contact with the band to get yourself a copy.

Oh! The Pretty Things - Seventeen
Oh! The Pretty Things - Jet Plane mp3
Rock Plaza Central - I am an Excellent Steel Horse mp3
Rock Plaza Central - 8/14/03 mp3

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Andrew Bird

Of all the good releases last week, the one I'm having the most fun with is Andrew Bird's Armchair Apocrypha. LCD and Modest Mouse have been neglected as Armchair gets repeated plays on the ipod, at the house, and in the car.

In the weeks leading up to the album's release I knew absolutely nothing about Mr. Bird. The blogs were pumping out some press and I stumbled upon Heretics, which initially bowled me over. I know a few details about the artist but consciously decided not to seek out more. I know he's no newcomer on the scene, despite being a newcomer on mine.

Does anyone else get fatigued by the glut of new artists and music every day. Too many of them are initially compelling but ultimately lacking depth or simply mediocre or worse from the get go. There is a desire to keep abreast of the music world, but some days it all seems unrewarding and I cradle old records like shepherds So I guess when Andrew Bird came along it was one of those days where I was weary of the new artist. But Heretics kept popping into my consciousness, and I decided long before its release that I would be picking it up.

Whenever I get excited about a new album I tend to engulf whatever information I can about it. I love first listens as much as I love reading what various critics have to say. Lately this seems like a whole lot of white noise that somehow deviates from my own interaction with the record. With this one I did none of the normal routines, fuck I don't even know what the guy looks like. I'm just reveling in the relative anonymity of it all. I'm not concerned with how the rest of the world likes it, just myself. I like the confusing elements, the underwhelming ones, the ones that make you smile. I like the way it sounds.

I like this record. Maybe you will too.

Andrew Bird - Heretics
Andrew Bird - Fiery Crash mp3
Andrew Bird and Nora O'Connor - Oh Sister (Bob Dylan cover) mp3

Armchair Apocrypha on Amazon

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rosewood Thieves, The Clash, Panda Bear, My Morning Jacket

A few loose strands for the wandering Friday mind of yours (evidently mine as well).

I don't think I've mentioned Doctor Mooney's 115th Dream as of yet.A shame that I'm rectifying today. The Doctor runs a great blog (enthusiastic endorsement of the highest) with epic posts. Just in the past few weeks he's put up a great White Stripes B-sides collection, some great live Dylan from the golden era, and yesterday a very comprehensive Clash B-sides post. He's in the blogroll so make sure you stop by and say hello. Our pick of the litter would be 1, 2, Crush on You, the b-side to Give 'em Enough Rope's Tommy Gun. You can grab that one here, hop to the doctor for the rest of the 90 million or so.
The Clash - 1, 2, Crush On You mp3

Driving the point home we have The Rosewood Thieves. The kind doctor tipped us off to the band. He's got a great assortment of tracks over there for you. I like Diamond Ring, so will you.
Rosewood Thieves - Diamond Ring mp3

It was an especially fruitful release week. We had the eagerly anticipated Modest Mouse (crudely mentioned last Friday), Lcd Soundsytem's Sounds of Silver, Andrew Bird's Armchair Apocrypha, as well as Person Pitch from Panda Bear. The 'Fork gave it a 9.4 and Best New Music Recommendation. The city seems to be sold out right now. So I'm going to have to wait a bit longer. To feed the appetite I've been listening to Comfy in Nautica with reckless abandon.
Panda Bear - Comfy in Nautica mp3

Lastly, here's My Morning Jacket doing Oh What A Night at their recent Prom themed gigs at Athen's 40 Watt Club. Have a Great Friday.
My Morning Jacket - Oh What A Night mp3

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Got them higher calling blues

After a few weeks off I'm back with another installment of Got Them Higher Calling Blues.

In the spirit of this week's release of Modest Mouse's We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, I have Jesus Christ was an Only Child off 1997's Lonesome Crowded West, considered by many to be the penultimate MM record. Jesus Christ differs from previous songs posted in the sense it is neither a gospel or celebratory song. Those especially touchy might go so far to describe it as blasphemous, what with lyrics referencing Jesus along the lines of "should have killed that little fucker before he even had him," and Isaac Brock's atheistic views. The song fits into the album's greater themes, touching on the decay of institutions, whether deserved or mourned. Brock makes a point of marking the difference between Christ,a benevolent and loving God and His Father, the seemingly angry, often vengeful God of the Old Testament. The point being that we may all be better off with a little less leash.
Modest Mouse - Jesus Christ was an Only Child mp3

The Brian Jonestown Massacre offer Jesus off Their Satanic Majesties Second Request. Its a sprawling psychedelic burn laced in timely fashion with the refrain of "have mercy please Jesus." The song depicts a man who has lost all money and friends and turns to Jesus for comfort only to find that He is not necessarily willing to offer it.
Brian Jonestown Massacre - Jesus mp3

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Concretes

I was down at the record store the other day and picked up a super cheap used copy of the Concretes self-titled debut. The Octet from Sweden has always been on my horizon since You Can't Hurry Love came into my life a few years back and became the go to guy in all mix tapes made the following two years.

I've spent my free time this weekend quietly distilling the album. It has its hits and misses, but overall, a great mood album if you ever catch it around. Part of the appeal of The Concretes lies with ex-lead singer Victoria Bergsman. You probably hear Victoria this summer singing on Peter, Bjorn and John's Young Folks. She is recording her solo debut under the moniker of taken By trees. If you go to the Taken By Trees website, here, you can here some demo versions (good quality ) of what I imagine will be her impending debut. Go for the music, stay for the umlauts. Lost and Found seems to be the strongest track and definitely worth a listen

The Concretes carry on as a septutlet, with Lisa Milberg steeping up to the mike. Their new album, Hello Trouble should see a release sometime in 2007 on the band's Licking Fingers imprint. For now, assuage yourself with first single, Kids, released last week, which is currently streaming at their myspace, as well as their temporary web home at Licking Fingers.

The Concretes' You Can't Hurry Love shares the same name as the old Supremes hit. The connection continues a few tracks later with Diana Ross, which pays homage to Ross' Love Hangover. The last track is fairly disco-ish but included today for all you folks out there who ever had a desire to wear a leisure suit.

The Concretes - You Can't Hurry Love
The Supremes - You Can't Hurry Love mp3
The Concretes - Diana Ross mp3
Diana Ross - Love Hangover mp3

Buy The Concretes on amazon

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


The Fembots, or Lesbian Robots as some of my friends with less "daring" tastes have taken to calling the band when i speak about them, have been relatively quiet since the release of 2005's The City.

The Fembots core duo of Dave MacKinnon and Brian Poirier have been spending time with junkstrument creator Iner Souster and slowly piecing together a collaborative album. You can check out the progress in picture format on the junkstrument blog. Dave and Brian are also in the process of mixing 12 tracks from their collaboration with Krista Muir aka Lederhosen Lucil (who guested on The City's title track). A few of those efforts are on Krista's myspace, including Drugging The Drain, which I'll put up for your downloading pleasure today. The Fembots joined Krista on a series of dates along the ways to Austin for SXSW this past weekend. The last of her shows is tonight in San Antonio at the Limelight. If that's in your area be sure to check her out.

The Fembots have a few dates in late April for Ontario and New Brunswick fans:
04/19/E-Bar, Guelph, ON
04/20/Music Gallery, Toronto, ON
04/21/The Spill, Peterborough, ON
04/25/Strutt's Gallery, Sackville, NB
04/26/Elwood's, St. John, NB
04/27/Capitol Bar, Frederiction, NB

Krista Muir - Drugging The Drain
Fembots - Mom's Ether Blues mp3 (off 2003's Small Town Murder Scene)
Fembots- So Long mp3 (off The City)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Modest Mouse

So I was viewing this travesty of a cover yesterday and i felt compelled to throw on Good News For People Who Love Bad News to wash that bad taste out. And listening to it, to and from work last night, I got real excited. I'm not sure why. It is a reasonably hyped album, but the hype isn't what is striking at me. Its not the addition of Johnny Marr to the lineup. Its not the Dashboard single, which, although good, could on any other day be just another mp3 off the blogroll.

Maybe it is the 10 plus years of eagerly anticipated ambitious and striking albums. Maybe it is because Float On, for all its overplayed radio joy, is, at the heart, pop perfection. Well, not perfection, but atleast a song you'll fondly light up at when hearing thirty years from now.

I dunno, in lieu of a real blog post today, I just wanted to tell you how excited I am about We Were Dead before The Ship Even Sank. Maybe I shouldn't. If Lonesome Crowded West was MM's Born To Run, and Good News.. their Born in the U.S.A., then wouldn't that make We Were Dead... Tunnel of Love? And Tunnel of Love kinda sucks, doesn't it?

Anyways, the new Modest album is out Tuesday.

Dashboard mp3

Styrofoam Boots/It's All Nice On Ice, Alright mp3 (off Lonesome Crowded West)
Dramamine mp3 (off This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Talk About)
Here It Comes mp3 (off Everywhere and his nasty Parlour Tricks)

Modest Mouse goes to the internet

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jon Landau

If you're a fan of rock and roll music, Bruce Springsteen, or music criticism, then no doubt you have come across the famed words of Jon Landau. A music critic who became a manager, first to the MC5 and later Springsteen, then onwards to producer for many of Bruce's important records. It is his work as a critic that I've been enamoured with as of late. Anyone with any inclination to write critically about rock music should pick up a copy of It's Too Late To Stop Now - A Rock and Roll Journal. Published in 1972 it collects Jon's early work at Crawdaddy magazine, and later Rolling Stone. His most famous piece, in which he describes Bruce Springsteen as the future of Rock and Roll is not included in the collection. Published as a concert review for The Real Paper, A Boston alternative weekly, in May of '74, the piece, now rock and roll legend, is an exercise in capturing that feeling. Anyone who ever had their lives changed in a rock and roll concert knows this; that feeling when you get home and you feel somehow enriched, if even a little, thanks to what you heard and saw onstage. It is a beautiful feeling that is rare if you are blessed.

The article is short, six paragraphs in total. My reason for including it today is that I would like to give a little context to his famous words, more so than the legend and hyperbole they've taken on.

Tonight there is someone I can write of the way I used to write, without reservations of any kind. Last Thursday, at the Harvard Square Theatre, I saw my rock & roll past flash before my eyes. I saw something else: I saw rock & roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time.
When his two-hour set ended I could only think, can anyone really be this good, can anyone say this much to me, can rock & roll still speak with this kind of power and glory? And then I felt the sores on my thighs where I had been pounding my hands in time for the entire concert and knew that the answer was Yes.
Springsteen does it all. He is a rock & roll punk, a Latin street poet, a ballet dancer, an actor, a joker, bar band leader, hot rhythm guitar player, extraordinary singer, and a truly great rock & roll composer. He leads a band like he has been doing it forever. I racked my brains but I simply can't think of a white artist who does so many things superbly. There is no one I would rather watch on a stage today.
Bruce Springsteen is a wonder to look at. Skinny, dressed like a reject from Sha Na Na, he parades in front of his all-star rhythm band like a cross between Chuck Berry, early Bob Dylan and Marlon Brando. Every gesture, every syllable, adds something to his ultimate goal - to liberate our spirit while he liberates his by baring his soul through his music. Many try, few succeed, none more than he today.
It's five o'clock now - I write columns like this as fast as I can for fear I'll chicken out - and I'm listening to 'Kitty's Back'. I do feel old but the record and my memory of the concert has made me feel a little younger. I still feel the spirit and it still moves me.
I bought a new home this week and upstairs in the bedroom is a sleeping beauty who understands only too well what I try to do with my records and typewriter.About rock & roll, the Lovin' Spoonful once sang, 'I'll tell you about the magic that will free your soul/but it's like trying to tell a stranger about rock & roll.' last Thursday I remembered that the magic still exists and that as long as I write about rock, my mission is to tell a stranger about it - just as long as I remember that I'm the stranger I'm writing for.

Bruce Springsteen - Kitty's Back
mp3 from The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle
Bruce Springsteen - Devils and Dust mp3 from Devils and Dust

Update: In my rush to share this with you I missed out on an important fact. Though I thought the above six paragraphs were the entire article, my post blogging peripheral research indicates that it is actually the part of a biiger article. Entitled, Growing Young With Rock and Roll, the full piece as it (presumably) appeared in the pages of The Real Paper on May 22, 1974 can be read in its entirety here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Constantines and the Fits & Starts

Back in 1999, a six song EP circulated in limited fashion, as word began to circulate of a band of "desperate men in search of desperate fortune." By 2001, the eponymous debut is released on Three Gut records, the initial pressings containing a single wooden match within. Curiously the proximity of match to compressed music does not cause albums all over the great GTA to catch fire. Incendiary live shows as the young upstarts upstage many a headliner, galvanizes a resurging Toronto music scene. Fast forward to the future and you have a four piece gone five,
three significant recordings in hand, and a fourth on the way.

And it all began with six songs. Six distinct promises of the things to come. "We're just getting started folks, just watch and see."

The Constantines trek across Canada with Jon Rae & The River, bringing Shotgun & Jaybird on the eastern dates and Ladyhawk for the western ones. Following that: a string of opening slots for The Tragically Hip south of the border.

March 16th - Club One, St. John's, NL
March 17th - The GCSU Backlot, Corner Brook, NL
March 20th - Steelworker's Hall, Sydney, NS
March 21st - Hunter's Alehouse, Charlottetown, PEI
March 22nd -George's Roadhouse, Sackville, NB
March 23rd - The Marquee Club, Halifax, NS
March 24th - The Manhattan, Moncton, NB
March 25th – The Capital Bar, Fredericton, NB
March 27th - Chez Dagobert, Quebec City, QC
March 28th – Barrymore’s, Ottawa, ON
March 29th – Club Lambi, Montreal QC
March 30th – Lee’s Palace, Toronto ON Shotgun & Jaybird depart
March 31st - Lee’s Palace, Toronto ON And Ladyhawk climbs aboard
April 3rd – Pyramid Cabaret, Winnipeg, MB
April 4th – The Exchange, Regina, SK
April 5th – Louis Pub, Saskatoon, SK
April 6th – The Starlite Room, Edmonton, AB
April 7th - The Hi Fi Club, Calgary, AB
April 8th - The Hi Fi Club, Calgary, AB
April 9th - Canmore Hotel, Canmore, AB
April 12th – The Plaza Club, Vancouver, BC
April 13th - Sugar Nightclub, Victoria, BC

100% Maple Leaf approved rock for red and blue state alike
04/20/07: Boston: Avalon The Constantines
04/21/07: Hampton Beach: Hampton Beach Casino The Constantines
04/22/07: Lancaster: Chameleon Club The Constantines
04/24/07: New York: Irving Plaza The Constantines
04/25/07: New York: Irving Plaza The Constantines
04/27/07: Atlantic City: House of Blues The Constantines
04/28/07: Philadephia: Theatre of Living Arts The Constantines
04/29/07: Washington: 9:30 Club The Constantines

The original Fits & Starts
1-Baby Teeth (later reworked into No Ecstasy, appears on The Constantines)
2-National Hum (appears on Shine A Light)
3-The Young and The Desparate (demo only)mp3
4-Saint You (appears on The Constantines)mp3 and Saint You (album version)mp3
5-Steal This Sound (appears on The Constantines)
6-Hyacinth Blues (appears on The Constantines)mp3 and Hyacinth Blues (album version)mp3

The Constantines, Shine A Light & Tournament of Hearts on Amazon

Friday, March 09, 2007

Liz Phair Friday

It's Friday, you're all like, hey it's almost the weekend. Then your mom enters the basement and she's all like "hey you lazy fucker, get up and earn enough money to get your own place. You're 35 and ugly and most girls would laugh at your lack of ambition." Something like that, right. And you're reminded why you count on music to distract you from your pitiful existence. You dream about being 20 again and meeting a girl like Liz Phair. So you put on Exile in Guyville and get a quick respite before your day begins.

The above events are fictional and although they are bound to describe someone, somewhere, if they do this coincidence is purely, well, coincidental. More so sad, but I'll settle for coincidental. For the record I am not nearing middle age and love my mother more than imaginable. She bought me a birthday cake shaped like a heart. Cute, right.

Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville came out in 1993 amid a lot of press surrounding her provocative use of sexuality. Like an underground Madonna, Phair described her sexual desire with a frankness that would be considered the norm in today's pop maelstrom. She left Matador in the late 90's for Capitol, moved to L.A., and alienated a large part of her fan base when her self-titled record of 2003 turned towards a more typical pop sound with Liz going so far as enlisting the help of the Matrix songwriting team on a number of the tracks.. All's fair in fandom we say.

Whenever I listen to Exile, I get a big wistful for a girl like Liz. She's kinda sad on Fuck and Run describing a relapse with an ex, knowing she fucked up, and wanting romance ("letters and sodas"), incredibly vulnerable in Divorce Song, and incredibly sexy and take charge in Flower.

Exile in Guyville was said by Phair to be a track for track response to The Stone's Exile on Main Street. I've never met anyone who can really believe this, but I enjoy the audacity of the statement.

Liz Phair - Fuck and Run
Liz Phair - Flower
Liz Phair - Divorce Song

As a little bonus, I'm including a recent cover by Cassettes Won't Listen of Fuck and Run
Cassettes Won't Listen - Fuck and Run

Exile in Guyville on amazon

Exile on Main Street on the same (you know if you wanna compare after you're done syncing up Wizard of Oz and The Wall)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Pop Levi, Surplus Sons

I headed down to Call The Office last night for an early show featuring ex-Ladytron alum Pop Levi and his backing band simply called Woman. For an early show I still didn't get out of there until eleven, but alas, let us digress for a moment.

The opening band, Surplus Sons, rocked off my proverbial sock(s). A five piece hailing from Toronto, dual guitar, drums, bass, and some newly added keys/organ greatly fleshing out the sound. These kids were high energy and won over a crowd that had never been privy to them before. If asked to describe their sound I'd say something like "in the spirit of their ancestors they steal with vigor from the golden era, Stones, Spencer Davis, and even more recently Oasis, Kings of Leon, and the Hives." I've always hated that cynical way of demeaning a band because their influences seem to be worn on sleeve, rather than kept in pocket. I'd have to keep it simple with they sound like rock and roll. And that is fine and fair to me. You don't see a lot of non -British bands in this indie era openly credit Oasis as an influence, however, these boys do. I'll leave you a favourite track of mine from their EP. You can download the whole thing gratis over at their website Here.

Surplus Sons - Step Stones
The track is Definitely Maybe era Oasis with a bit of those backup singers Dylan called upon so economically on a few of his gospel b-sides

Pop Levi has been getting some press as of late for his debut release, The Return to Form Black Magick Party (produced by Devandra Banhart), and its effortless glaze through of glam rock. Onstage, the man and the band are enviably tight, the songs rock, and for a moment you're transfixed. Too quickly, the facade crumbles. The songs aren't simply good enough to allow you to get past the immense amounts of preening and posturing occurring. While I'm sure this is part act, the fact remains that it is a tough act to swallow. Music is built on larger than life ego and image, still, unswallowable if the music can't prop it up. The Guardian profiles Pop Levi more concisely than I could ever care to.

Pop Levi - A Style Called (Crying Chic)

Surplus Sons headline a CMW showcase tonight at the Horseshoe. If you're in Toronto, check 'em out around 1:30. Pop Levi plays Friday at Lee's Palace at the otherwise stellar Outside Music CMW showcase.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Birthday post

Hey Everybody. just a short post for y'all today. As indicated above, today is very much my birthday. As I write this I am wearing a party hat. Rung in the opening hours of the birthday in the presence of Apostle of Hustle. Chris from Neile's Life was there too and has a full report and mp3's. I was quite impressed by the show, which saw a good turnout beside the shitty weather (which is continuing as we speak).

Merge gave me a birthday present when my copy of Arcade Fire's Neon Bible arrived a few days earlier (it is out Wednesday). I'm about to head out to work so it will have to wait. Quite excited about the disc and songs as I've resisted every urge to listen to all the tracks and live versions already out there.

Enjoy your Friday, birthday or not. A few tracks...

The Beatles - Birthday (obvious choice, but how many birthday songs are there that rock like this)

Steve Earle - Feel Alright
From Steve's album I Feel Alright (1996). I'm pretty sure the song is about his triumph over addiction(getting clean, new dawn, etc, etc,) but the sentiment remains.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The RIAA took my baby away

Funny thing happened Tuesday, my file hosting service,, was instructed to shut down my account by the RIAA due to copywrite infringement. Ie. illegally offered mp3's,

I'm honoured that this small little blog has managed to catch the attention of the big man, but as such, it causes a slight problem in offering music to you folks out there. You'll notice that most links to songs are now dead. Hopefully I'll get things re-upped as fast as possible. I'm searching for a new service. Mydatabus was a pretty decent free service that offered a 20gb daily bandwidthh that was more than adequate for our humble needs and audience. Their new free version offers only 1gb of daily bandwidth which is far from what I need, even their paid option offers considerably less bandwidth than they once did.

If anyone knows of a decent file hosting service (decent amount of bandwidth, no more than $20/30 month if not free) than feel free to point me in the right direction. Any other bloggers out there who have run into this problem recently/know anyone going through the same?